I think one of the most suspenseful parts of this play is the section towards the end of act 2, from when Sheila realises that Eric is the culprit, up until the end of the act. I also find the last paragraph in the play very enthralling and dynamic. Sheila is a clever, quick-witted girl, and she realises first before anybody, though some of he audience will have caught on, (and obviously the inspector knows), that the wrongdoer, who her mother has just been telling the Inspector should be brought to justice, is actually her ‘squiffy’ bother, we know thins (from the text) when she suddenly shouts, ‘with sudden alarm’, ‘Mother-stop-stop!’ but she is immediately dismissed by her father, and then as she tries to protest, her mother ‘severely’ shouts at her, causing her to cry,( though I don’t think that is the only reason why she is crying).
As Mrs Birling explains to the Inspector what he should do with the ‘culprit, the suspense is building up immensely, especially when the word ‘duty’ keeps on being mentioned, this gives a bit of a creepy atmosphere, especially when the Inspectors cool, cold voice cuts through the theatre, ‘don’t worry Mrs Birling. I shall do my duty,’ at this, Mrs Birling thinks she has overcome this ‘high wall’, and demolished it, we know this y the way she says, ‘I’m glad to hear it.’ Then he silently teases Mrs Birling, as he has a little fun of his own, ‘No hushing up eh? Public confession of responsibility-um?’ He is consistent with Mrs Birling, but he finds it ironic, as the audience will soon, that she is giving her own son his ‘sentence’ without knowing it.
In a way, he is mocking her, which is quite surprising, as he has been quite polite so far. The Inspector doesn’t accept Mrs Birlings invitation to leave, by answering, ‘Not yet, I’m waiting’, this sentence is deeply dynamic, and scary, I think this is probably when the audience and the other characters begin to comprehend, we know that Mrs Birling is becoming a bit wary of something going on when she says, ‘Waiting for what?’ we can imagine her saying this as id she was answering a mysterious question, in other words, her voice would also have that mystifying, eerie, hesitant feeling, this must also be said very slowly.
The Inspector then answers, just as mysteriously and coolly, but nor hesitantly,’ to do my duty’. I think all of the repetition of the word ‘duty’, has set Sheila off like a ticking bomb, she suddenly breaks the ice between the Inspector and Mrs Birling, by saying, ‘Now, Mother-don’t you see?’ Mrs Birlingg finally understands, and slowly, feeling insecure, she says, ‘but surely…I mean…It’s ridiculous…’
She and her husband are very worried and anxious, we know this because Mrs Birling ‘exchanges a frightened glance with her husband’ (SD), I don’t think Mr Birling understands until his wife looks at him, because he rapidly becomes terrified, (it would be more perceptible while watching the play). We become aware that he is the first to actually say their thoughts aloud, it is as though they all know what each other is talking and thinking about, but no one up until Mr Birling had the guts to actually say it or they just won’t come to terms with it. I think it is very despicable of the Inspector to go on at Mrs Birling, she and the audience realise that she did wrong, and it all seems different now that it’s her son, but I still find it a bit harsh.
Mr Birling is ‘thunderstruck’, he is devastated, ‘My God! But-look here-‘. Mrs Birling is ‘agitated, and she still won’t accept it, ‘I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it…. Sheila comes in with her line of defence, ‘Mother! I begged you and begged you to stop-‘, this is actually the last sentence said in this act. However, the most suspenseful part is to come. The ‘Inspector holds up his hand. We hear the front door. They wait, looking towards the door.
Eric enters, looking extremely pale and distressed. He meets their inquiring stares.’ I think this last piece of text from the Stage direction, is extremely thrilling, because Sheila is cut off in the middle f her sentence by the inspector raising his hand, this shows how much power he has over them, especially her. This moment, as hey look towards the door is so exiting because we don’t know what / who is going to enter the room, well we do, but because the pause is so long, our imaginations bring up images of terrifying thoughts or new developments, trying to rind the answer, and then as Eric comes into the room, the heartbeats of the audience slow to their normal rates and breathe a sigh of relief. I expect it’s that kind of feeling when the goody is being chased by the baddy (in a film) and everyone is holding his or her breath to see what will happen, and when the goody gets away, you just relax totally.